As mental health education remains absent from today’s curriculum; we look at seven ways in which people are introducing essential wellness skills to young people
1. Awareness: mental health training
As they say, “awareness begins at home”, or in this case not at home, but in the classroom (close enough).
More than 1,800 secondary schools across the UK will receive free Mental Health Awareness Training (MHAT) as part of government-funded incentive to promote a “whole-school approach” to mental health, reports Happiful Magazine.
The training, which will run at more than 130 locations across England between September 2019 and February 2020, aims to provide staff with knowledge, skills and practical tools to help promote mental health and wellbeing in their schools.
Programme director for the Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Programme at the Anna Freud Centre, Jaime Smith, said: “This training gives schools and colleges a vital evidence-based grounding in mental health.
“Addressing children’s mental and physical health is one of the most important things we can do for children and their families so that they can thrive and lead fulfilling and productive lives.”
A list of eligible schools and colleges can be found on the Anna Freud Centre website, here.
2. Teaching Empathy: Klassens Tid and Hygge
Empathy is a dominant message in Book of Beasties, with its aim to help the Beasties and each other by sharing Comforts, Items and Actions - so we really love this.
Schools in Denmark dedicate an hour a week to something called “Klassens Tid”, which are lessons in empathy aimed at children aged six to 16. Klassens Tid has been a mandatory element of education since 1993, consisting of the discussion of problems and then working together with teachers and peers to find solutions to them.
The lessons focus on “Hygge”, a Danish word that loosely translates to (according to good old Google Translate) “fun”. But a more descriptive meaning is the bringing of light, warmth and friendship. In a country that gets dark very early and experiences rather grey weather, this could be a welcomed exercise.
3. Focus on Prevention
“Prevention is much less developed in mental disorders than in other areas of medicine.” Ron C Kessler, a Harvard Medical School professor told the Guardian.
“In psychiatry and psychology it is like we are practising 1950s cardiology, where you wait for a heart attack and once it happens you know what to do. We need to go upstream a bit more.”
Resources available for mental health are few and far between when you compare with physical health, and although there are some good efforts to improve on this with mental health first aiders and awareness campaigns for example, when it comes to prevention we are a way behind.
The “whole-school approach” which is a focus of the MHAT, is gaining momentum in the UK and beyond with its emphasis on preventative methods such as teaching coping skills and resilience.
Like Book of Beasties, this drives home the importance of positive mental health as an integral element to the overall ethos of a school.
4. Entertainment: Boardgames
We can’t not put this one on the list - the Anna Freud Centre states that boardgames “can stimulate parts of your brain responsible for problem-solving, strategising and making logical decisions, which could put you in a good mindset to tackle other things that are going on.”
Although there isn’t really any academic research into using this method for self-care and to help young people living with mental health issues, it is a harmless and fun activity that can be used to encourage social interaction, relieve stress and relax.
Note: The University of West London is currently conducting a pilot study on Book of Beasties, measuring the effects playing such a game has on the overall wellness and awareness of the children that use it.
5. Self Care: Physical Activity
You hear lots about the importance of physical activity for our general health, and you may be forgiven for rolling your eyes at yet another study that highlights the benefits on our physical and mental health.
But we don’t think it can be said enough that a healthy body, is a healthy mind, is a healthy you.
TES reckon that finding a sport, exercise or physical activity a young person can take part in and enjoy, could potentially be “the singular most important thing a school can do to ensure a young person leads a mentally-well life.”
6. Philosophy: Aristotle
PSHE education (personal, social, health and economic) is a well known subject in schools, assisting in the overall development of children and young people. However, one school has put a slightly more philosophical spin on these lessons.
Pupils at Colfe’s School in Greenwich, London learn all the usual PSHE topics such as mindfulness, spirituality and relationships except through the eyes of Ancient Greek Philosopher, Aristotle.
These courses, titled “Eudaimonia”, usually translated as happiness, explore the significance of virtuous behaviour and look at how the “good life” can be achieved.
Emerald Henderson, the head of philosophy at Colfe, told the Telegraph: “This is a well-being initiative with intellectual integrity and pastoral appeal.
"Rather than simply focusing on pursuit of their own happiness, the Eudaimonia programme sees personal flourishing as the by-product of living a morally good life.”
7. Alternative Exercise: T'ai Chi
A slightly different take on physical activity is the slower, more mindful Chinese material art T’ai Chi, which is being practised in a number of primary schools to help ease anxious students during stressful times.
“Nobody teaches you how to mitigate the stress and get rid of it all,” says Paul White, who runs the Snap Dragon T’ai Chi classes, “Children are under pressure from parents, they pile stuff on them. But if they are anxious, they have no way to cope.”
This wellness method is regularly used in China to help children relax and learn, originally a form of “soft martial art”, it is now widely used for its health benefits, similar to Yoga.
Don’t forget, we are offering *schools the chance to receive a free copy of Book of Beasties: The Mental Wellness Card Game, the Beastie Guide (and lesson plans) PLUS a short training session with its creators.
(*dependent on location)
If you would like to take advantage of this, contact us via our website or send us a message with your name, school, location and job title to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image from Pixlbay.